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Africa’s Cell Sector: Nonetheless Room for Development

Africa’s cellular communications market continues to develop at a gentle tempo. And take up exhibits no indicators of slowing. 

Subscription numbers had been up 5% in 2021, following progress of seven% the 12 months earlier than and 6% in 2019.

In keeping with figures from our GlobalComms Database, on the finish of 2021 the continent was house to 1.22 billion cellular subscriptions, up from 1.16 billion 12 months earlier.

Nigeria is by far the most important single market, with 190.6 million subscriptions on the finish of 2021, adopted by South Africa with 110.9 million and Egypt with 101.3 million.

Scorching Markets

In nation phrases, Africa was house to nearly half of the highest 40 quickest rising cellular markets worldwide in 2021. A number of the strongest performers included Niger, the place cellular subscription numbers rose 23% to 14.2 million, Ethiopia (up 20% to 58.7 million), Malawi (up 19% to 11.3 million), and Mozambique (up 16% to 17.3 million).

Double Digit Will increase
Africa’s 15 Quickest Rising Cell Markets in 2021

Nation2021 DevelopmentCell Subs at Finish-2021



14.2 million



58.7 million



11.3 million

South Sudan


3.3 million



7.7 million



17.3 million

Congo, Dem. Rep.


46.9 million



12.7 million



1.9 million

Central African Republic


1.9 million

Burkina Faso


24.7 million



9.7 million



5.5 million



1.3 million



3.7 million

Supply: TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database

The West African nation of Niger gives good prospects for future progress, with solely round 56% of the inhabitants subscribing to a mobile service at end-2021, nicely beneath the regional common.

Demand for cellular voice and knowledge is now booming, having beforehand been restricted by a scarcity of competitors, excessive costs, and low community protection. France’s Orange Group cited the nation’s “unfavorable market surroundings” as the explanation behind its exit in November 2019.

It’s now served by 4 gamers: Airtel, Zamani Telecom (previously Orange Niger), Moov, and Niger Telecoms. Airtel controls over 47% of all subscriptions.

In the meantime, Ethiopia’s cellular sector has exhibited robust progress, regardless of nonetheless being one of many world’s few remaining monopolies on the finish of 2021, with state-owned Ethio Telecom the one participant. Safaricom is trying to break into the market, nevertheless, with a launch imminent as of August 2022. The brand new operator is hoping to be masking 25 cities by April 2023.

The Malawi cellular market has remained a duopoly since Airtel Malawi began operations as Celtel in October 1999, when it joined Telekom Networks Malawi, which had launched 4 years earlier.

Since 2002 the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority has sought to introduce new competitors to the sector, however not one of the licensed corporations proceeded with a industrial launch.

In Mozambique, Vodacom is the dominant participant, with nearly 52% of all subscriptions on the finish of 2021, adopted by Movitel with 29% and TMCEL with simply over 19%.

Future Enlargement

There may be nonetheless extra room for progress regionally, with inhabitants penetration of cellular companies in Africa standing at 89% at end-2021, growing from 87% 12 months earlier. To place this in a worldwide context, that was greater than 15 proportion factors behind areas akin to Asia, the Center East, and Latin America.

Wanting forward, cellular subscriptions in Africa are set to rise to 1.61 billion by the top of 2028, a compound annual progress price of 4% for 2021-2028.

Wanting forward, cellular subscriptions in Africa are set to rise to 1.61 billion by the top of 2028, a compound annual progress price of 4% for 2021-2028.

One nation set to drive the long run take up is Democratic Republic of Congo, the place inhabitants penetration was round 45% on the finish of 2021, roughly half the regional common.

The Congolese market has huge untapped potential for future progress, however growth stays hindered by lots of the challenges going through comparable sub-Saharan states, akin to poor transport/power infrastructure, widespread poverty, restricted entry to funding, weak establishments and corruption. These boundaries are exacerbated by the DRC’s measurement, difficult terrain and dispersed and numerous inhabitants.

Know-how Cut up

4G subscriptions will quickly surpass each 2G and 3G as the most well-liked platform in Africa. By the top of 2023 4G is anticipated to be being utilized by nearly 470 million individuals on the continent, simply forward of 3G.

4G and 5G Development
Africa Cell Subscriptions by Know-how, 2011–2028

Africa Mobile Subscriptions by Technology 2011-2028Supply: TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database

As 3G utilization goes into decline, 4G will proceed to develop in reputation, with a predicted 730 million 4G subscriptions by end-2028.

5G companies have already been launched in plenty of African markets, in nations akin to South Africa, Botswana, Togo, and Zimbabwe, plus island nations together with Reunion and Seychelles.

In Could 2022 the Nigerian Communications Fee confirmed that the winners of final December’s 3.5GHz spectrum public sale, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications, had every been formally issued with their spectrum licenses. Community rollouts are actually underway.

5G networks are forecast to be serving nearly 350 million subscriptions in Africa by the top of 2028.


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